Mumbai: Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) raised prices of at least seven key petrochemicals in the last quarter to offset higher crude oil prices and counter the effect of a weakening rupee. Bulk chemicals traders, suppliers for RIL’s petrochemical products and analysts tracking the company said it raised prices by 10-21% in the second quarter of this fiscal while year-on-year increase is 17-61%.
These products include purified terephthalic acid (PTA), monoethylene glycol (MEG), polyester staple fibre (PSF), partially oriented yarn (POY), polypropylene or high density polyethylene (HDPE) and linear alkyl benzene (LAB).
“Its more about the rupee decline and crude price which have increased petrochemicals prices in Asia. There is not much change in terms of demand-supply. Besides, RIL commands the highest premium in the Indian petrochemicals market. If you see pricing for RIL’s key products, it has been consistently going up in past three months," an analyst tracking RIL said on condition of anonymity.
Crude prices, which have been on the rise, are expected to touch $100 per barrel in a few months. The rupee, on the other hand, weakened further and settled at 73.76 against the dollar on Friday.
“Sustained, substantial increase in crude oil prices has pushed up petrochemical feedstock prices over the past few months. Geopolitical situation and expectation of a tighter oil market has further impacted the raw material cost. Globally, petrochemical producers have absorbed a part of the higher feedstock costs while pricing products," said RIL in an emailed reply.
Analysts tracking RIL said the firm raised PTA prices to ₹ 81,600 a tonne till September against ₹ 50,750 a tonne last September. This August, PTA prices were at ₹ 69,000 a tonne. Prices for HDPE has gone up 24% to ₹ 104,720 a tonne against September 2017.
PTA is a raw material used in making multi-purpose plastics. HDPE is used for packaging household and industrial chemicals such as detergents.
“RIL has been revising prices upwards for its products. And given RIL enjoys a monopolistic situation in petrochemicals manufacturing, we don’t have an option but to buy from RIL. There is no corresponding increase in demand but RIL has been raising prices," said a PTA trader operating out of Mumbai’s Crawford Market, adding he has been a PTA trader with RIL for nearly two decades.
RIL is among the top 10 producers for key petrochemicals. Last fiscal, the company saw revenue from the petrochemicals segment increase sharply by 35.5% ₹ 125,299 crore. Operating profit in the segment was up by 63% to its highest ever level of ₹ 21,179 crore.
Prices for PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, however, were cut last week. “RIL had been increasing PVC prices for the last six months despite a low demand. Last week, however, the company dropped the prices to ₹ 78 a kilo against ₹ 81-82 a kilo earlier. Despite the price reduction, demand has not picked up," said another chemical stockist who operates out of Masjid Bunder in South Mumbai.
PVC is one of the most widely used polymers in the world extensively used in industries, building, transport, packaging, electronics and healthcare applications.
“In India, despite depreciating rupee and increased crude prices, Reliance has actually reduced finished prices for all its products, net of raw material price increases, to safeguard its customers and maintain the consumer sentiments," the company added in the emailed response.
Still, the July-September quarter earnings from petrochemicals for RIL look robust. “Earnings momentum is likely to remain strong, in our view. After 19-21% earnings per share growth over FY17-18, we expect stronger 33% growth in FY19F, driven by petchem," said Nomura Research in a 27 September report.
In January, RIL commissioned its refinery off-gas cracker (ROGC) complex of 1.5 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) capacity along with downstream plants and utilities, culminating its $16 billion refining and petrochemicals expansion plan that it embarked on in 2014.
Commissioning of the plant will help the refiner double ethylene capacity and enter the league of top five petrochemical producers globally, in addition to lowering its fuel cost and boosting profits. There are nearly 270 ethylene plants globally with a combined capacity of over 170mtpa. RIL’s combined ethylene capacity is now close to 4 mtpa at five of its manufacturing sites.